San Jose Sharks sign Michal Handzus to a two year deal worth $2.5 MM per year

The San Jose Sharks got their third line penalty killing forward earlier this evening, signing former Los Angeles Kings centerman Michal Handzus about nine hours after free agency had begun. Getting a strong penalty killing forward was something that we highlighted as the Sharks biggest need this offseason considering the team finished last year 24th in the League shorthanded and did not retain Scott Nichol or Jamal Mayers, making this deal a solid and safe addition for San Jose.

This acquisition makes it a near certainty that Joe Pavelski will play in the Sharks top six forward group next season as the 34 year Handzus is a third line centerman who will not be expected to play anything resembling top six minutes at this stage in his career. He's a defensive forward with some scoring pop, notching 12, 20, 18, and 7 goals respectively during his last four seasons with the Kings. That being said, expecting Handzus to crack the 20 goal mark again playing on the Sharks third line is distinct reach-- a ten goal thirty point season should be the expectation heading into the year, with fifteen goals and forty points a pleasant surprise that will clearly be welcomed with open arms if it does occur.

Considering Handzus' primary role on the team will be in the defensive end of the ice, let's take a look at the relevant advanced metrics. As always, thanks to Gabe Desjardins of Arctic Ice Hockey for providing these at Behind The Net:

Michal Handzus Even Strength and Shorthanded Statistics

Year GP Qualcomp D-Zone%
+/- ON/60
SH GAOn/60
2010-2011 82
0.04 (4th)
56.5% (1st)
-13.1 (13th)
-0.43 (7th)
51.7% 2:24 (1st)
4.85 (2nd)
-0.105 (9th)
53.9% (2nd)
-13.6 (14th)
+0.06 (8th)
2:43 (1st)
9.42 (8th)
81 0.02 (4th)
55.9% (1st)
-9.9 (12th)
-0.44 (7th)
3:32 (1st)
6.32 (5th)
0.122 (1st)
56.7% (2nd)
-14.7 (12th)
-1.53 (15th)
2:50 (1st)
7.15 (2nd)

Breakdown after the jump.

For those of you who aren't privy to all of the inner workings of the advanced statistics provided here, this is what our four year sample is saying from left to right:

  • Handzus is a player who is immensely durable-- he has only missed one game in the last four seasons. Maybe he had a cold or something, but there's no doubt he is more than able to crack the 75+ game mark for San Jose.
    Terry Murray trusted him to go up against tough competition on a nightly basis-- despite some even strength ice times that were low in relation to his teammates, Handzus competed against some of the toughest competition the Kings faced in every year except for 2009-2010.
  • Furthermore, Handzus is a defensive zone specialist who regularly sees draws in front of his goaltender. If there's a defensive zone faceoff next season in front of Niemi, expect Handzus to be there. That is where he makes his living, that is what his role will be on the team.
  • Unfortunately, Handzus gives up a lot of shots in his own end. I should caution that these numbers are skewed due to the situations he is regularly placed in (defensive zone faceoffs obviously lead to more shots against, especially when it comes against the type of competition Handzus has faced), but the optics here are still a little concerning. Handzus regularly finished at the bottom of shot prevention in relation to his teammates on the Kings. Essentially, while Handzus got tasked with the toughs, he struggled with pushing the play in the right direction.
  • Handzus' goal prevention is related to this-- tasked with the toughs, but took his fair share of lumps in his own end.
  • Faceoff ability is middle of the road. Not a dynamo, but more than able to hold his own from the dot.
  • The penalty kill is where Handzus makes his money, and deservedly so. He led the Kings in shorthanded ice time all four years, annually clocking in at over 2:30 per game. For a team that needed this type of forward, there's not many better options than Handzus across the League when it comes to eating minutes on the kill./

In terms of goal prevention shorthanded, there's always a lot of issues when it comes to taking rates (with the small sample size of minutes a post here and a weak goal there can swing them wildly). Handzus' statistics bear that out to a certain degree-- he finished second on the team in 10-11 and 07-08, 8th in 09-10, and 5th in 08-09. With his minutes being the way they are I think it's safe to label him as a good penalty killer that has the same type of flaws he encounters at even strength.
Although there are players who would have given the Sharks better bang for the buck during this year's free agency (Belanger at $1.75 MM for three years, Fiddler at $1.8 MM for three years), Handzus is a capable player who addresses a team need. The Sharks got the penalty killing forward they need during free agency at a reasonable term, and in this type of market, that should be considered a win.

Expectations: Ten goals and thirty points, centers the third line for 75+ games, leads the team in SH TOI.